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Newbie: Help me start with a simple 2.1 system (eventually build into 5.1)


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 01 2011 - 06:55 AM

Hi there, First post/thread here... I am ready to toss my HTIB system and go for the real deal. I want to start small though since I don't want to sacrifice quality. Reason being, I cannot afford a $1K system right now... I have to buy furniture, a tv, then the audio :( I want to start with a good receiver with multiple HDMI inputs and two bookshelf speakers (hopefully that won't break the bank). I want to keep it under $500. Is there anyway I can integrate my current parts: Panasonic HT-690/700 (http://goo.gl/jdRQk) I don't think I can reuse the sub, but the speakers may be usable temporarily... I think they would sound nicer with a good receiver and sub. If I cannot do this, then I'm happy to start with as much as I can get for $500 (quality stuff). I eventually will build out on this, but I want to start small. My uses: -XBOX 360 -HTPC (custom built--my baby)    -DVDs/blurays/music/gaming So you can say I will be doing a little bit of everything. If it matters, I'm going to be looking for a 50" Plasma at the right price... was all about LED til I read more about newer plasmas. Thank you!

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted March 01 2011 - 09:47 AM

Welcome Albert This is not the answer that you want to hear. After looking at the owners manual I would not recommend using any of your satellite  speakers with a new receiver as you could damage that receiver.  Your HTib has propitiatory wiring that connects the speakers through the sub.  While the receiver says its out put is 6 ohms, you don't know if the sub reduces to 4 ohms or even less.   In most cases these cheep HTib have speakers that are 4 ohms or less and since Panasonic doesn't list the ohm rating for those satellites you could fry a new receiver that is not built to handle those speakers.  BTW even if you did manage to use those speakers with a new receiver you would not notice any improvement in the sound of those speakers. I also think that unless you look for used equipment then you are going to have a tough time finding a decent receiver and 5.1 speakers on a $500 budget as that is pretty much in the middle of the HTib range.   I would follow your plan to build a 2.1 system for now and upgrade later.  Keep in mind that when you upgrade to a 3.1 or 5.1 system your center channel will need to be timbre matched to your right and left speakers.  That means the center should be the same speaker or made by the same company with matching speaker components.   The majority of your budget should go to a new speakers as they are the heart and the major factor in how your system will sound.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted March 01 2011 - 12:59 PM

One approach you may want to consider is to get a moderately priced receiver like the Onkyo 508 for about $250 a Dayton 10" subwoofer for $140, and a pair of Polk R150 bookshelf speakers (Amazon has them for $99 but they seem to be backordered).  Cables and speaker wire from www.monoprice.com and you should come in right about at budget.


The 508 is a great receiver, provided you use all HDMI sources (it won't convert analog video sources to HDMI - for that, you need to step up to the 608 for another $130).  The Dayton subwoofer will last you a while - long enough that it will likely be the last speaker you upgrade.


As Bill suggested, the front three speakers need to be timbre-matched to each other, and are frequently bought "as a set".  That's what I would suggest your next purchase be - all three front speakers.  The R150s would be moved to the back or sides as you grow your system.


This is pretty much the approach that I took in growing my system, and I like it because there's little "throwaway" purchasing.  For $500 it's going to be REALLY tough to get a receiver, subwoofer, AND all three front speakers without making compromises that will mean limiting your system from the get go.


Speakers are also where most of your money should go into a system.  They also require the most effort on your part to audition and find ones that sound good to you.  You won't be tied into Polk for your fronts if you move the R150s to the sides or rears - it's mostly important that the front three match, so get them as a set.


Just a suggestion - I'm sure you'll get more.  Good luck and welcome to the forum!


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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 02 2011 - 05:44 AM

Thank's for the detailed responses. I don't expect to build a quality 5.1 surround sound system on $500. I think the idea of buying two fronts, a receiver, and sub, then moving the fronts to the rear is a fantastic idea. My old roommate had speakers that looked exactly like this. I did notice they sounded much more clear than my Panasonic satellites. Although, I'm sure it was lacking with the receiver it was hooked up to. I suppose those would work out to be good rears later on and fairly good fronts, yes? That receiver looks really good also. I like it a lot with all the features. On a side note, does anyone know of the cheapest solution for an analog TV tuner? I was using an old VCR, but it broke... My old tube tv's tuner broke, and I'm stuck with a useless TV (since I only have so much digital content). I'm open for more/other suggestions on speakers. I have never heard of that sub brand, are they good? I've seen another post where someone has suggested it to another. **Edit: I see that those speakers are from 6ave... there are a few in Jersey. I think I'll check it out.

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 03 2011 - 04:45 AM

So, I was looking at the Onkyo 608 and RC260 and it seems like these two may be a better option for me. Considering that the 508 does not upconvert signal... this could be really valuable to me.

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted March 03 2011 - 05:35 AM

Albert, In your quest to puting a 2.1 system together that you will grow to a 5.1 system, you may want to purchase your center channel now and start out with a 3.1 system.   Since the L, C, and R speakers work together to produce your front stage it is important that they be timbre matched to each other.  This means the center channel should be the same speaker as you L & R or made by the same company out of similar components.   Adding that center now will ensure that it will be available and since it carries much of the voice frequencies will greatly improve your system performance for TV and movies.

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 03 2011 - 05:42 AM



Originally Posted by CB750 

Albert,


In your quest to puting a 2.1 system together that you will grow to a 5.1 system, you may want to purchase your center channel now and start out with a 3.1 system.   Since the L, C, and R speakers work together to produce your front stage it is important that they be timbre matched to each other.  This means the center channel should be the same speaker as you L & R or made by the same company out of similar components.   Adding that center now will ensure that it will be available and since it carries much of the voice frequencies will greatly improve your system performance for TV and movies.


I understand that the center channel has to be timber matched to the other front channels. Which is why I was thinking of purchasing the front two now, then moving them to the back later and purchasing front three later. As of right now, the amp + sub will bring me to a little over $400, then leave about $100 & change to spend on the front pair of speakers.




#8 of 17 OFFLINE   JeremyR

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Posted March 03 2011 - 05:53 AM

If you don't mind refurb, and you want up-conversion to 1080P over HDMI, this might be a good option.

Comes with a 1 year warranty.

http://www.accessori...er/1.html#!more



#9 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 03 2011 - 06:13 AM


Originally Posted by JeremyR 

If you don't mind refurb, and you want up-conversion to 1080P over HDMI, this might be a good option.

Comes with a 1 year warranty.

http://www.accessori...er/1.html#!more



So you've just introduced yet another receiver... so far, I have the,

Onkyo 508, 608, 680, and RC260.


I'm super confused about the differences and which to pick. Also, anyone have any experience with refurbed?



#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted March 04 2011 - 01:08 AM

Albert - you should keep in mind the main difference between "upconversion" and "upscaling". The "upconversion" of analog to digital signal types is a convenience factor only if you have analog devices that you wish to connect to the system (Nintendo Wii, an old LaserDisc player, and VHS players seem to be the common culprits).  It avoids the need to run separate video connections (one analog and one digital) from the receiver to the display.  "Upconversion" really has little to do with changing resolutions. "Upscaling" is taking one video resolution (480p, 720p, 1080i/p) and changing it to another.  Most recievers will upscale content (analog and digital) up to 1080i.  The extra step of converting sources to 1080p is less common. I'm of the opinion that upscaling in the receiver is less important since all modern fixed-pixel displays (DLP, LCD, etc.) will always upscale any incoming signal to match it's native display resolution.  Granted, some receivers may utilize components with a better "pedigree" to accomplish this than some TVs, but personally, I have never been one to really dissect the nuances of one devices upscaling abilities compared to another (when talking about major electronics brands).  To me, they're all about equal. That being said, in doing a comparison on the Onkyo website - the only differences I see between the Onkyo 608 and the RC260 is THX certification (which doesn't mean much, really), and Sirius Radio connectivity.  I didn't dig much into the 680 - there is no information on it at the Onkyo website, so I'm concerned it might be some sort of Costo/Sam's/Walmart variation on a "regular" model.  On the surface it seems to offer what the 608 offers, but there must be some difference, and often these "slight" differences are not insignificant. I know many members here have vouched for AC4L in the past, and have found some great deals on stuff, however in this case, you have a couple of good alternatives already in the 608 and 260.  You can opt for either model, I think, and be satisfied.

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#11 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 04 2011 - 01:27 AM

Originally Posted by Jason Charlton 

Albert - you should keep in mind the main difference between "upconversion" and "upscaling".


The "upconversion" of analog to digital signal types is a convenience factor only if you have analog devices that you wish to connect to the system (Nintendo Wii, an old LaserDisc player, and VHS players seem to be the common culprits).  It avoids the need to run separate video connections (one analog and one digital) from the receiver to the display.  "Upconversion" really has little to do with changing resolutions.


"Upscaling" is taking one video resolution (480p, 720p, 1080i/p) and changing it to another.  Most recievers will upscale content (analog and digital) up to 1080i.  The extra step of converting sources to 1080p is less common.


I'm of the opinion that upscaling in the receiver is less important since all modern fixed-pixel displays (DLP, LCD, etc.) will always upscale any incoming signal to match it's native display resolution.  Granted, some receivers may utilize components with a better "pedigree" to accomplish this than some TVs, but personally, I have never been one to really dissect the nuances of one devices upscaling abilities compared to another (when talking about major electronics brands).  To me, they're all about equal.


That being said, in doing a comparison on the Onkyo website - the only differences I see between the Onkyo 608 and the RC260 is THX certification (which doesn't mean much, really), and Sirius Radio connectivity.  I didn't dig much into the 680 - there is no information on it at the Onkyo website, so I'm concerned it might be some sort of Costo/Sam's/Walmart variation on a "regular" model.  On the surface it seems to offer what the 608 offers, but there must be some difference, and often these "slight" differences are not insignificant.


I know many members here have vouched for AC4L in the past, and have found some great deals on stuff, however in this case, you have a couple of good alternatives already in the 608 and 260.  You can opt for either model, I think, and be satisfied.



Thanks for the info. I'll zero in on those two receivers. As far as THX goes, I understand it was used to preserve the soundtrack from a movie so its accurately reproduced... so what else do I have to know about this? Speakers have to be THX certified? Additionally, how often or not will I actually be able to use this? I generally keep all my content on my computer so I can use it on my front end, I will end up converting to MKV container on h.264--does this preserve the THX certification?

Also, is there actually a noticeable difference w/ and without THX? Sorry for all the questions, I'm learning a lot though....



#12 of 17 OFFLINE   JeremyR

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Posted March 04 2011 - 05:07 AM

Alot of people will pooh-pah THX certification, and for the most part that is true.  My TX-SR805 is THX Ultra2 certified, and while there might be other receivers as capable that aren't because the manufacturer did not want to pay to put the stamp on their equipment, it is peace of mind that it was able to stand up to the testing required to hit a set point that THX requires.  Again, mostly irrelevant as any good quality receiver by Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, or Pioneer Elite will more than likely hit those marks. That said, the features that come with THX certification I find very worthwhile.  When I'm playing by Xbox 360 I find the THX games setting to be the one I enjoy the most, though the difference isn't as noticeable between it and other modes as it is on my Wii.  On the Wii, the THX Neural 7.1 settings makes a huge difference in creating a 7.1 experience on the few games that would matter on the Wii.  Certainly, Dolby Pro Logic IIx offers similar features, though I don't find they create as enjoyable of an experience for me.  And I also enjoy the THX Ultra Cinema mode that converts the 5.1 signal into a 7.1 signal.

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted March 04 2011 - 05:21 AM

I wonder what that THX certification really means.  I have an Integra (made by Onkyo) that has it and from what I see that once you set up your speakers with Audyssey you have the option to go to speaker set up and over ride the Audyssey selected crossovers to THX crossovers which change the cross overs on the satellites to 80HZ.   Actually its no different that changing any of the crossovers in 10HZ increments except the 80HZ is labeled THX. While I am very happy with the Integra I am not sure that THX adds anything to its value.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 04 2011 - 05:38 AM

So, it has that status of being "THX certified," yet no one can definitively say, "wow, it makes a big difference, you should definitely look into it." So for this "THX certification," its a $20 value difference:

http://www.accessori...Tx-sr608/1.html

http://www.accessori...Receiver/1.html


I don't need THX certified speakers/sub, do I?


Also, do these have internal fans for ventilation?



#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted March 04 2011 - 06:13 AM

No, you do not need all "THX certified" gear in your setup (though the guys at THX would LOVE it if you did...). My two cents on THX: I had one of the very first THX-certified pieces of consumer electronics - the Onkyo 828 receiver.  It was a proLogic receiver that could do digital 5.1 through the use of an outboard DD decoder.  The THX features included signal processing that did a better job of creating "pseudo surround" from stereo sources than the plain, vanilla ProLogic decoding.  For its time, that was a pretty significant improvement and, IMO, worth the price premium. Fast forward to today, with the high quality, LOSSLESS audio encoding on Blu-Ray and the benefits of these added signal processing are either reduced significantly, or entirely if one prefers to listen to audio in its "native" form.  I'll admit, I'm no gamer, so I have zero need for any audio processing modes outside of "All Channel Stereo" which I use from time to time. THX touted itself as a quality standard, first and foremost (they still do).  However, a few years back, THX suddenly introduced multiple "tiers" of certification. What?!?!  How can you suddenly decide there are SEVERAL quality standards to strive for?  That's when they started losing me.  Next thing you know, everything starts getting "THX certified - even crappy "widescreen" VHS casettes whose vertical image resolution is exceeded by the average scores of most professional bowlers and my skepticism ran deeper.  Cables, headphones, speakers, the list goes on. Today, the ONLY value I see in THX is in some of the THX-certified displays, and this is only due to the fact that THX certification stipulates that all external image processing "features" be defeated and deactivated in "THX Mode" for that display.  In some cases, that's the only way to be sure that everything is (or can be) turned off. For me, personally, I wouldn't choose my receiver based on THX unless ALL other things were equal and it was a negligible price difference.  In this case, $20 is less than 10% the total price, so it's pretty meager.

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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   lilfleck

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Posted March 04 2011 - 07:11 AM

Thank you all for all of the information so far. It's been really helpful. Since we're only talking about $20, I think I'll buy it for piece of mind. That set aside, I think I would like to buy speakers first... assuming I can plug these into my existing HTib, right? I don't think I'll break anything since I've had my old roommates Polk speakers plugged in before. I can then work on the sub, and receiver last. Are there ever any deals on receivers? Where should I look out for? Where do the Polk speakers specified above on rating from 0-10? Just curious... no experience here.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted March 05 2011 - 06:37 AM

Albert For what it is worth my PC speakers are Logitech Z-5300 which I purchased for $150  are THX certified.   Would  you call that a super quality system?  I rest my case.